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Archive for Mother’s Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: Sparkling Wines For Gifting & Drinking

Brachetto d'Acqui Banfi

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui: a wine that says “Be My Valentine.”

 

If you’ve taken a look at Champagne prices, you’d like a recommendation on which way to go.

Our recommendation: Steer away from Champagne and look at other sparkling wines. Here are two of our favorite affordable bubblies for Valentine’s Day. Both are crowd pleasers. One is a perfect dessert wine or an apéritif; the other can be enjoyed anytime, with any course.

Drink them yourself or give them as gifts. As with all sparkling wines, serve them chilled.
 
BANFI ROSA REGALE BRACHETTO D’ACQUI

This sweet sparkling wine from the Piedmont region of Italy is a vivid rose red. The color is natural!

It’s made from the Brachetto df’Acqui grape, which grows in the area of Acqui Terme in rocky, calcareous soil (tough soil makes better wines).

 
The bouquet is very aromatic, with hints of raspberries, strawberries and rose petals. You’ll taste hints of fresh raspberries, with crisp acidity.

In addition to dessert—cakes, tarts, ice cream—it pairs well with seafood, cheeses, spicy fare and yes, that box of Valentine chocolate.

One of our friends calls this wine “love at first sip.” It’s pretty romantic stuff.

The price: $17-$20 per bottle. The pronunciation: bra-KET-toe d’AH-qwee.

There’s more on the brand’s web page.
 
YELLOWTAIL BUBBLES SPARKLING ROSÉ

A recent Top Pick Of The Week for the holidays, this sparkling wine from Australia makes everything more festive—at just $10-$11 per bottle. It’s not a sweet wine, but crisp and refreshing, so it can be paired with anything.

The fragrant nose promises cherries and strawberries on the palate. Unlike the deep red of Brachetto d’Acqui, it’s a pale pink color, similar to a rosé Champagne.

Depending on the retailer and promotion calendar, the bottle may come with a resealable, plastic cap that allows you to seal in the bubbles for the next day. If not, and if you don’t have one, pick up a Champagne resealer. It’s inexpensive, and really does keep that wine sparkling for days.

And it can be the part of the gift that remains, when the wine is long gone.

Here’s our full review of the wine.

And here’s the Yellowtail Bubbles Rosé web page.

 
  

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TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blossom Water

For two years we’ve had our eye on Blossom Water, an innovative beverage in a crowded field that has not yet gotten the distribution we think it deserves. We keep checking the store locator, hoping for something near us.

We drink it at the trade show where we first discovered it; and we do buy it online. A 4-bottle package that’s $12.00 has a shipping cost of $4.95.

And we think it’s worth it. But we want to drink so much Blossom Water, that the shipping charges quickly add up. (Blossom Water folks: Can you put the product on Amazon so we can at least use Amazon Prime?)

Perhaps by publishing a rave review, some retailers will take notice. So here it is:

WHY DO WE LOVE BLOSSOM WATER?

The flavors are perfectly blended:

  • Grapefruit Lilac
  • Lemon Rose
  • Plum Jasmine
  • Pomegranate Geranium
  •    

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    Lemon Rose Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     
    We have particular favorites, but every palate is different so please try them all.

    The flavors taste exactly as they sound: like a delicious sip of nature. We love each flavor as is, so we haven’t considered adding gin, which itself is made with botanicals that would complement those in Blossom Water.

    We’ll get around to it; but for 45 calories for an entire bottle of heaven, we’re not in a rush to add more calories.

     

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    Grapefruit Lilac Blossom Water. Photo courtesy Blossom Water.

     

    The delicately nuanced flavors are refreshing for every day drinking and for special occasions, including lawn parties, showers and weddings, holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    The beautifully-designed bottles are also ready to serve as party favors.

    OK, men: You think it’s a chick product. But it’s a beverage for anyone whose palate seeks exciting new flavors.

    The only solution: Taste it for yourself.

    Discover more at DrinkBlossomWater.com, and ask your specialty store manager or supermarket beverage manager to bring some in. They, too, will never know until they try.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Summer Caprese Salad With Flowers

    We saw this photo on GourmetAttitude.com and thought: We must make this!

    It’s a miniaturized Caprese Salad, with these substitutions:

  • Bite-size mozzarella balls instead of sliced mozzarella
  • Cherry and/or grape tomatoes instead of sliced beefsteak tomatoes
  • Baby basil leaves instead of large leaves
  • A garnish of edible, summery flowers
  •  
    It’s a beautiful summer salad; and since good cherry tomatoes can be found year-round, it’s also a treat for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

    For more food fun, you can serve the salad in individual Martini glasses.

    RECIPE: SUMMER SALAD WITH FLOWERS

    Ingredients

  • Bocconcini, bite-size mozzarella balls, or the tinier pearl-size perlini
  • Cherry tomatoes, ideally heirloom in an array of colors
  •  

    cherry-tomato-mozz-flower-salad-gourmetattitude-230

    We call this salad “Flower Power.” Photo courtesy GourmetAttitude.com.

  • Optional: yellow grape tomatoes for contrast
  • Small basil leaves (if you can’t find any, make a chiffonade of regular leaves)
  • Edible flowers (more information)
  • Good olive oil (infused olive oil—basil, rosemary, etc.—is great)
  • Vinegar, lemon or lime juice (we like balsamic, but anything works)
  •  

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    Cacio di Roma. Photo courtesy Cheese Of The Month Club.

     

    Preparation

    You can dress the salad in oil and vinegar, allow guests to pour their own from cruets, or drizzle olive oil and vinegar on the plate before adding the salad, and allow guests to “swoosh” the tomatoes in it.

    1. TOSS the tomatoes with a small amount of salt. Combine in a mixing bowl with the drained bocconcini and herbs.

    2. SERVE on a platter or shallow glass bowl or on individual plates.
     
    WHAT IS CACIO CHEESE?

    Formally called Cacio de Roma, cacio is a semi-soft Italian cheese originally made in the countryside outside of Rome from sheep’s milk. Cacio simply means cheese in some dialects (formaggio is the word used universally in Italy).

     
    The cheese—not readily found in the U.S.—is made in small rounds called caciotta and aged for about one month. It is a classic sheep’s milk cheese. Like mozzarella, made from the milk of cows or water buffalo, it melts very well for cooking and is enjoyed as a snack, with pasta, pizza and salad.
     
    SOME CAPRESE SALAD HISTORY

    Like most recipes, Caprese salad has evolved.

    The original name originated on the island of Capri, on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The island has been a resort since Roman Times.

    But Caprese Salad is a more modern invention, dating (by name, anyway) to the early 20th century. The original salad was made with four ingredients: cacio cheese, beefsteak-type tomatoes called cuore di bue (steer’s heart), whole basil leaves and olive oil.

    Later, possibly after World War II when American tourists ventured to Capri (it was a Jet Set favorite), sliced mozzarella (fior di latte or bufala) replaced cacio and the recipe spread throughout Italy and overseas with the tourists who loved it.

    In classic style, slices of mozzarella and tomatoes plus the basil leaves were overlapped on a plate, drizzled with olive oil.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake A Special Coffee Cake

    Many of us would love a delicious piece of coffee cake with our morning coffee—or to serve to Dad on Father’s Day.

    If you can find an artisan-baked coffee cake in your area, great. We live in a big city where the rents are so high that the beloved neighborhood mom and pop bakery is largely a thing of the past.

    So the only solution: Order by mail (check out this terrific povitica, an Eastern European coffee cake) or bake your own.

    But first….

    WHAT IS COFFEE CAKE?

    Coffee cake is a yeast-leavened cake that is typically served at breakfast or as a snack with coffee or tea. It is often glazed with a white confectioner’s sugar icing or topped with streusel. The latter is also called crumb cake.

    Coffee cake can contain raisins, nuts, other dried fruits and/or chocolate chunks. Most are flavored with cinnamon. More elaborate recipes incorporate cream cheese, jam or fruit curd.

    According to FoodTimeline.org, food historians generally agree that the tradition of eating sweet cakes with coffee likely originated in northern or central Europe in the 17th century, when coffee was introduced (see the history of coffee).

       

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    A coffee cake inspired by the blueberry muffin. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

     
    These areas already had sweet yeast breads, a natural accompaniment that evolved into “coffee cake” The made with flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, nuts, dried fruit and spices.

    German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants brought the recipes with them to America. Over time, coffee cake recipes evolved to contain sugared fruit; cream cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings; streusel and other toppings.

    See the different types of cake in our Cake Glossary.

     

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    The “cinnamon roll” coffee cake. Photo courtesy The Baker Chick.

     

    There are many great coffee cake recipes out there. If you don’t have one, ask family and friends if they have a favorite before heading to recipe websites.

    For an inspired coffee cake recipe, we looked to Audra Fullerton, a.k.a The Baker Chick, the writer, recipe developer and photographer for this blog. We’re big fans.

    The “Blueberry Muffin” Coffee Cake

    The first coffee cake from Audra, photo above, is a blueberry muffin recipe baked as a cake, with an extra brown sugar topping. It’s not a yeast cake but is super moist, with plump blueberries in every bite.

    It takes all of 10 minutes to mix, and 40 minutes in the oven. How can you resist?

    Here’s the recipe.

     
    The “Cinnamon Bun” Coffee Cake

    The second recommendation is a jumbo cinnamon roll, the size of a cake.

     

    Instead of rolling and cutting the dough into individual rolls, you cut the dough into strips and attach them one by one until a monster cinnamon roll is achieved.

    It’s more time consuming than the blueberry coffee cake, but isn’t that “wow” factor worth 1 hour and 15 minutes of your time to assemble?

    After that, in just 20 minutes in the oven you have a warm, fragrant, gooey 9-inch “coffee cake.”

    Here’s the recipe.
     
    MORE BREAKFAST CAKE OPTIONS

    Special enough for Father’s Day: this Apple Streusel Bundt Cake.

    Also for your consideration: a Hummingbird Coffee Cake, a Southern tradition.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Bacon Rose Bouquet Recipe

    Mom gets flowers for Mother’s Day; perhaps Dad would prefer a bacon bouquet. It’s easy to make 12 long-stemmed bacon roses.

    Here’s a video from the National Pork Board that shows how to make bacon roses.
     
    RECIPE: BACON ROSES

    Ingredients For 12 Bacon Roses

  • 12 strips of bacon
  • 24 toothpicks
  • 12 stems from plastic roses*
  • Glass vase (or pitcher)
  • Optional: red ribbon
  •  
    *Get 12 fabric or plastic roses on plastic stems from the craft store. You have to remove the flowers, but typically, they snap off so you can wash the stems and use them again. After you remove the flower, wash the top of the stem before adding the bacon roses.

     

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    It’s easy to make this tasty bacon rose bouquet. Find more recipes at PorkBeInspired.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. UNWRAP the bacon and gently separate the slices. Roll each into a bacon rosebud.

    2. INSERT two toothpicks to hold each bud in place. Place the buds on a wire rack over a pan and bake at 400°F for 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

    3. MOUNT a bacon bud at the top of each stem and place the stems into a vase. Tie the ribbon around the vase. Present to the happy dad.

     
    ALTERNATIVE: SEND A JERKY BOUQUET

    A turnkey alternative to making bacon roses is to send a delicious beef jerky bouquet—12 long-stemmed pieces of jerky—from GaryWest.com.

    Wrapped decoratively in red tissue and delivered in a traditional flower box, the steak bouquet is $42.00, with a choice of flavors: Traditional, Black Pepper Cajun and Teriyaki.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Gin Cocktails For Father’s Day

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    A gimlet: gin, lime juice and sugar. Photo courtesy
    Gallo.

     

    How about a gin cocktail party for Father’s Day? You can serve your guests the five classic gin cocktails: Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin & Tonic, Gin Rickey and Martini. For a mocktail, a pitcher of limeade does nicely (a few dashes of bitters makes the limeade more cocktail-like).

    We love the idea of a tasting of the classics; but if you’d rather have modern gin cocktails, here are recipes for a Gin Mojito, Red Snapper (Bloody Mary) and Watermelon Martini

    You can have a bartender prepare the drinks to order, or make them in bulk in advance and serve them in pitchers (self-service). Provide shot glasses (plastic ones are fine) for tasting all, and full-size glasses for one’s favorite cocktail.

    Recipes vary widely—it’s easy to change proportions, switch lemon juice for lime juice, switch the garnish, etc. There are several styles of gin. Most recipes use London Dry Gin, but if you have something else, use it. If you have a favorite recipe for any of the drinks below, by all means use it!

    RECIPE: GIMLET COCKTAIL

    A gimlet is a tool for drilling small holes; the name was also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. The word “gimlet” for a cocktail was first used around 1928—perhaps for its effects on the drinker.

     
    According to Wikipedia, another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (who served 1879 to 1913). Gimlette allegedly introduced the drink as a means of inducing his messmates to drink lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication.
     
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots (or parts) gin
  • 3/4 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Garnish: cucumber wedge or lime wheel
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake all ingredients with ice until ice cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.
     
    RECIPE: GIN FIZZ COCKTAIL

    A fizz is a variation of a sour, a family of cocktails that uses lemon or lime juice. The fizz adds carbonated water (soda water). The first printed reference to a “fiz” appears in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide. It became very popular starting at the turn of the 20th century.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup or 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Soda water
  • Lemon wedge for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake with ice and strain first 3 ingredients into a highball glass. Top off with soda water and stir lightly. Garnish with lemon wedge.

     

    RECIPE: GIN & TONIC COCKTAIL

    The world’s favorite gin drink was born in colonial India, when the British troops took daily doses of quinine water (tonic water) to ward off malaria. Someone suggested mixing it with gin to make it more palatable, and the Gin and Tonic became the iconic drink of the British Empire.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • Tonic water
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    Add the gin and ice to highball glass; top off with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.
     
    RECIPE: GIN RICKEY COCKTAIL

    The rickey was created with bourbon in the 1880s, at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. The story is that it was a collaboration between bartender George A. Williamson and a good customer, Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.

     

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    A classic G&T with a (non-traditional) sprig of fresh thyme. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.

     

    In the bar for his morning glass of bourbon and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water, with lump ice, history was changed when one day, half a lime was squeezed into, then dropped into, the glass. The guess is that the lime was the bartender’s twist. Colonel Rickey may have preferred bourbon, but the cocktail became a worldwide sensation a decade later when gin was substituted to create the Gin Rickey. It’s similar to a Gin Fizz, but it uses London Dry Gin and lime juice, and less (or no) sugar.

    Ingredients

  • 1.25 shots gin
  • 1/2 fresh lime, juiced
  • Optional: splash of simple syrup
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze the lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Add the gin, simple syrup and the lime shell. Top off with soda water.
     
    RECIPE: GIN MARTINI COCKTAIL

    Is there a drink with as many variations as a Martini? The original may have been made in San Francisco in 1850 by bar owner Jerry Thomas. A stronger claim comes from Here’s the scoop. The first reference to a vodka Martini in the U.S. occurs in 1951 in a cocktail recipe book, Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier. The drink took off when James Bond ordered his vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.”

    Ingredients

  • 3 shots gin
  • 1/4 shot dry vermouth (for a dry Martini)
  • 1-2 green olives, depending on size
  •  
    Preparation

    Shake the vodka and vermouth with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the olives.

      

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    RECIPE: Rocky Road Truffles

    Today is National Rocky Road Day. The original Rocky Road was an ice cream flavor invented in 1929 by William Dryer. He chose the name to describe the bumpy appearance of ice cream packed with chocolate, marshmallows and walnuts. Since the Great Depression began in October of that year, it was also a tongue-and-cheek reference.

    Pastry chef and cookbook author Emily Luchetti has taken Dryer’s original flavor profile and added her own twist, to make Rocky Road Truffles, developed for the California Walnut Board.

    Chocolate ganache surrounds walnuts and marshmallows, with a light dusting of cocoa powder. The truffles melt in your mouth.

    Make them for a family treat or for a special occasion like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day. The truffles can be made a week in advance. The better quality the chocolate, the tastier the truffles. (We used a Valrhona chocolate bar.)
     
    RECIPE: ROCKY ROAD TRUFFLES

    Ingredients For 30 One-Inch Truffles

     

    Here, the rocky road is welcome. Photo courtesy California Walnut Board.

  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows cut in half (use scissors)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or chocolate bar chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WARM the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan lightly so the chocolate is covered by the cream. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth.

    2. WHISK occasionally until the mixture is at room temperature. Then stir in the marshmallows, walnuts and milk chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.

    3. PLACE a heaping teaspoon for each truffle in a single layer on a pan. Refrigerate until hard.

    4. PUT the cocoa powder on a plate or in a small bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. One at a time, place the chocolate balls in the cocoa powder. Dust your palms with cocoa powder and lightly roll the truffles between your palms until round. (The cocoa powder keeps them from sticking to your hands.) Finally, roll the round truffles in the the cocoa powder. (If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.)

    5. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve. For gifting, you can wrap the truffles up in tissue paper and tie the bundle with a ribbon.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Berry Croissants

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    Berry croissants: a yummy idea. Photo courtesy Castello Cheese.

     

    For Sunday brunch or afternoon tea*, here’s a fun alternative to a chocolate croissant that provides another reason to enjoy seasonal berries.

    RECIPE: BERRY CROISSANTS

    Ingredients

  • Croissants
  • Berries: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries or a mix
  • Mascarpone, fresh chèvre (goat cheese—look especially for the honey chèvre at Trader Joe’s), cream cheese or other spreadable cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPLIT the croissant and spread the bottom half with cheese.

    2. ADD the berries, whole or sliced, depending on size.

     
    Thanks to Castello USA for the idea (they used blue cheese).

     
    *Who has afternoon tea, you say? Well, THE NIBBLE is a far cry from Downtown Abbey, but we serve afternoon tea daily. Not everyone drinks tea, but it’s our chance to sample some of the many foods that arrive at our doorstep—baked goods, candy, jam, crackers, cheese, pâté and so forth—including coffee, tea and other beverages. If you want to serve a proper afternoon tea, here’s how.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Mother’s Day Martini

    Make a special Martini for Mom with this recipe from Grey Goose. It’s all in the garnish: microgreens and a caperberry instead of the usual olive or twist.

    Here, the conventional olive or lemon twist is replaced with with microgreens and a large, stemmed caper berry: arty and pretty.

    Use your favorite Martini recipe or this one:

    RECIPE: CLASSIC DRY VODKA MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ parts vodka
  • ½ part dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Garnishes: caper berry, amaranth and shiso microgreens
    (or substitutes)
  •  

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    Make it pretty for Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy Gresy Goose.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Cupcake Garnishes

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    Easy Mother’s Day cupcakes. Photo courtesy Sweet Street Desserts.

     

    If you still haven’t settled on a dessert for Mother’s Day, here’s the easy way out.

    You can make cupcakes like these, from SweetStreetDesserts.com, simply by purchasing plain cupcakes and topping them with a large piece of candy.

    Instead of sprinkles, the idea is to have one chocolate “centerpiece” to top the cupcake. Consider:

  • Baci
  • Bonbons
  • Chocolate-coverd cherries
  • Chocolate disks
  • Hershey Kisses (unwrapped)
  • Non-pareils
  • Toffee or brittle (large piece)
  •  

    Of course, you can bake your own cupcakes from scratch or a mix. But with this concept, the busiest dad or young child can “make cupcakes” for Mom.

     
      

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